For most travelers, the town of Naturita, Colorado, is a pass-through point on the drive between Telluride and Moab, Utah. But Natalie Binder is working to make it a destination for outdoor recreation and art enthusiasts alike.
In 2021, Binder and her partners, Jodie and Bruce Wright of One Architects, opened CampV, a 120-acre campground located near what used to be a thriving mining town on Colorado’s Western Slope. A visit includes glamping options and interactive artwork set against stunning desert views, as well as a lesson in local history.
“When I travel, I look for spaces that tell a story,” Binder said. “I felt like this not only had an incredible story, but it also had a story that was worth preserving and retelling.”
The “V” in CampV stands for Vancorum, the name of an enclave built by the Vanadium Corporation of America to house engineers and managerial staff who worked for a nearby uranium mine in the town of Uravan. Uravan is long gone, evacuated and demolished due to the presence of radioactive materials in the mid-1980s, but the enclave — where no mining ever took place — in Naturita remains. And now it’s being given new life.
Since purchasing the property, Binder and the Wrights renovated more than a dozen cabins, originally built in the 1940s, into modern mountainside sanctuaries complete with amenities such as gas fireplaces, colorful kitchenettes, patios with grills, and record players complete with vinyl collections.
The partners added several Airstream trailers, also available for rent, and glamping tents of various shapes and sizes. There are also RV hookups and tent sites, providing options for a variety of camping styles.
Because it’s located on a hill, CampV’s property is naturally subdivided into three sections. Most of the lodging resides on what Binder calls “middle V,” which is the hub of activity and art. At the base of the hill, “lower V” offers riverside tent camping and a pond where guests can swim or paddleboard. Binder also repurposed a bus she found on the property as the centerpiece of an outdoor lounge area there.
Binder calls the area at the highest point of elevation “upper V.” That’s where guests will find some additional camping spots and a historic water tower that often plays host to yoga and meditation classes. It’s a killer spot for stargazing, Binder said, and open for campers to use every night.
Large-scale artworks are peppered throughout the grounds. The most awe-inspiring is the Prairie Wind Chapel, dubbed one of the most incredible works of Burning Man art ever made by Business Insider. Binder met the chapel’s artist, Robert Hoehn, when she attended the Burning Man festival in 2019. Hoehn decided to make Naturita the open-air temple’s permanent home, so guests can now sit on the benches beneath the canvas structure and gawk at its ornate details, including a restored pipe organ.
Binder said her experience at Burning Man was instrumental in helping her envision what kind of potential CampV has as a cultural hotspot for visitors. But more importantly, she hopes to offer something special to locals within the community. Both of Binder’s parents were raised near Naturita and her father lived at Vancorum while the mine was operational.
“One of our biggest mantras is that rural communities deserve access to world-class art and programming,” said Binder, who grew up in Green River, Wyo. “These events, from outside looking in you might say ‘Oh, you’re just throwing a party.’ But no, we’re building community.”
To that end, Binder is booking the calendar with events like recent documentary screenings in partnership with Telluride’s Mountainfilm festival. The venue is also available for weddings and other private events.
Binder’s signature event, Planet V Fest (May 26-29), is currently gearing up for its second year when the property will come alive with live music, comedy, yoga, art-focused workshops, bonfires and more. The event started as a private gathering of Burners in 2020 before welcoming the wider community.
While Planet V is sure to attract more than 300 travelers to this hidden gem in Naturita, Binder’s long-term goal is to support local tourism to the point that it becomes a burgeoning industry. The region’s economy has been devastated in the transition away from mining and nothing has yet filled that void, Binder said.
“We want to continue to grow our music and art offerings, but also the future is continuing to introduce more people to this space and be part of building an outdoor recreation economy, which has some momentum. But at this point it’s not a sustainable economy based in outdoor recreation,” she said.
The next phase of growth at CampV includes putting a $2 million grant from Colorado Creative Industries to work building employee housing and an outdoor performance pavilion. Part of the funds will go toward renovating an existing house on site to be a public arts and maker space, Binder said. She expects to break ground on all those projects this summer.
CampV is open year-round and accepts reservations for its cabins, glamping spots, RV hookups and more at campv.com. Summer is typically the busiest season, Binder said.
CampV offers some food options, which are available to pre-order ahead of a reservation. Otherwise, guests are able to bring their own food and drinks to wherever they camp.
Planet V Fest takes place May 26-29 and offers guests a rare opportunity to set up a tent anywhere on the property. Single-day tickets with camping range from $95 to $145. A three-day pass costs $215 and includes several meals; camping is sold separately. See all the lodging options at planetvfest.com.
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